Too often, my hubby and I fall into a make-it-Mexican rut, and we neglect the other flavors that are hanging out in our pantry cabinet, just waiting to thrill our palates. When we discovered last week that our dinner rotation had an empty slot, I pulled a package of skirt steak from the freezer, figuring we could always give it a Mexican spin and fajitas or tacos with it. But with all the other flavorful things that could be applied to a cut as tender and succulent as skirt steak, isn’t plain ole usual fajitas just “phoning it in?”
So I reconsidered, taking our steak in a different direction with my homemade spicy coffee rub and a zesty, garlicky chimichurri to accentuate and complement the smoky, earthy flavors of the rub. We did pile it all onto hearty tortillas and enjoyed it as fajitas, but this meal had a decidedly more interesting appeal!
As long as we were trying new things, we swapped in scallions for the usual grilled onions, which was a nice change of pace texturally and flavor-wise. And we gave our red bell pepper only a few quick turns on the grill, keeping some of the firmness and amping up the sweetness with those blistered skins. No hot spices on them, only salt and pepper to preserve their natural flavors.
No salsa, cilantro or sour cream here either; rather, I set up my food processor and pulsed down a couple of big handfuls of fresh parsley with garlic, more scallions, fresh oregano and red wine vinegar. The grilling of this meal moves quickly, so it’s best to make the chimichurri a few hours or even a day ahead. Here’s how it goes.
This is a classic formula for chimichurri, a condiment familiar to Argentina, and though it typically calls for a few shakes of crushed red pepper, I swapped in a scant spoonful of this wicked hot crispy habanero stuff that I picked up last year from Trader Joe’s. Drizzle in some olive oil while the processor runs, and it’s ready in a snap.
Now, if you’re thinking, “I need to get to Trader Joe’s right now for some of that crispy habanero!” well, don’t bother. As is par for the course, this spicy stuff has already been 86’d from TJ’s lineup— their abrupt dispatch of interesting products is, as you know, part of my love-hate relationship with the store— but you can easily go traditional with your chimichurri and just use crushed red pepper, or even a fresh jalapeno. But if you happen to be stuck with a jar of the habanero crisp already, at least now you have a fun way to use it. I intend to put it to work in my next batch of spicy homemade sausage, and I’ll let you know how that goes.
As for the skirt steak, I gave it a nice massage with my spicy coffee rub, which I introduced in 2021 with this coffee-rubbed grilled tri-tip steak. Link back to that post for the rub recipe and another great meat idea for the grill. This homemade rub has amazing flavors, including coriander, ancho, brown sugar, oregano and cayenne— altogether, a really nice change of pace for fajitas. The coffee rub does not impart a coffee flavor to the meat—if it did, my husband wouldn’t touch it—no, it’s more of a bold, earthy flavor, a little bit spicy and a touch smoky, depending on the roast level of the coffee you use.
The secret to making skirt steak the best it can be is threefold— season it well ahead of time, grill it quickly and cut it against the grain. Les took care of the grilling part (and it happened fast!) while I prepped the fresh avocado and chopped the charred veggies. We wrapped the finished steak tightly in foil for about seven minutes before slicing, and dinner was served!
The coffee rub turned out to be a terrific flavor for our skirt steak, and the chimichurri was like icing on a cake! OK, well, maybe green icing. 🙂
Coffee-rubbed Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
The earthy, smoky notes of my coffee rub, combined with a bold and zesty chimichurri was a flavor explosion for our taste buds! If you can't purchaset this flavorful cut, a flank steak or hangar steak would be a good substitute. Allow a few extra minutes on the grill to adjust for the thickness.
- 2 to 3-pound skirt steak (preferably grass-fed)
- Extra-virgin olive oil (liquid or spray)
- 1 Tbsp. spicy coffee rub (recipe available at https://comfortdujour.com/2021/05/17/coffee-rubbed-grilled-tri-tip-steak/)
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into large sections for easy grilling
- 1 bunch fresh scallions, divided (you’ll use them in the chimichurri and as an accompaniment to the steak)
- 1 ripe avocado, cut into slices or cubes
- 1 small lime, cut into wedges
- Medium size flour tortillas for serving
- Trim away any lingering membrane pieces from skirt steak. Pat dry, then rub or spray on a small amount of olive oil. Apply coffee rub evenly over the entire surface of the steak. Let it rest in the fridge a few (or up to 24) hours, bringing it back to near-room temperature about 45 minutes before grilling.
- Preheat grill or grill pan to roughly 500 F. If working indoors, be ready to use your vent fan, as the high temperature will likely produce some smoke.
- Prep the red bell peppers and remaining scallions by brushing or spraying with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the veggies, turning frequently to ensure even charring. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into bite sized pieces.
- Place the skirt steak over direct heat and grill only until the first side is seared (this will be 2 minutes or less). Turn the steak and repeat searing on the other side. The cooking should be very brief so the meat remains tender.
- Transfer the steak immediately to a plate lined with a large, double layer of foil. Season immediately with kosher salt. Wrap the steak so it is fully enclosed in the foil and seal it tightly, resting for 5 to 8 minutes. The residual heat will finish cooking the meat as the juices are redistributed.
- While the steak rests, flash-grill the tortillas just long enough to warm them. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and slice thinly against the grain of the meat. Serve with grilled veggies, avocado and chimicurri.
- About two handfuls fresh Italian parsley, rinsed and trimmed of heavy stems
- 3 or 4 scallions (green onions), trimmed and rough-chopped
- 3 or 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and rough-chopped
- A few small sprigs fresh oregano leaves, rinsed and stripped from stems
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- A few shakes crushed red pepper (or some other spicy element), to taste
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Add one handful of the parsley to the small bowl of a food processor, along with scallions, garlic, oregano, vinegar, crushed pepper, salt and pepper. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Pulse a few times to combine.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining handful of parsley, pulsing again just to combine.
- Turn the processor on to run continuously and stream in the rest of the olive oil while it’s running. Adjust to taste, then transfer to a bowl to rest in the fridge.